When I left Australia in December, it was inconceivable that Labor would not be re-elected in this year’s election. The Liberals had gone for a third leader since Howard and had no policies. None of that changed but in the intervening period, the Henry Tax Review proved a disaster and Rudd was stunningly deposed. One wouldn’t even have thought this would be enough but it is clear that if you add what was a poorly run campaign, there is a real possibility that the Government will change sometime this week. I should also add that it took until 11pm on election nights for the betting markets to actually move in line with the reality — so much for them.
Here are a few other points that should be made:
- Politics drove the situation we find ourselves in. It destroyed Malcolm Turnbull’s chances of bringing sanity. And it led to Rudd’s ousting and it is almost surely the case that that cost the Labor party votes and seats (especially in Queensland).
- But more importantly, this outcomes exposes Labor’s problem is that it currently has no core values that it will stick to. This is in contrast to The Greens as John Quiggin has reminded us often recently. Labor failed to significantly improve educational outcomes. Labor did little to correct held. Labor abandoned the urgency of doing something on climate change. Labor moved on broadband and telecommunications competition and faltered with a narrow vision and inconsistencies (such as the internet filter). Labor failed to give Australia moral leadership on immigration. And finally Labor have done nothing to end the legislative discrimination against same sex marriage. If Labor is returned to power, my hope is that it will get this core back and start putting that above politics. My hope for that lies in a necessary coalition with The Greens keeping them honest.
- All that said, I worry about what this all reflects about Australia. No commentator seems to be saying this but I wonder if gender discrimination is more entrenched in Australia than many of us had considered. The media coverage, terrible though it was, in many ways surely reflects the tolerances and intolerances of its readership.
- On the real prospect of a Coalition government, the need to rely on independents will surely not help us improve matters. The hope is that it will be more like Ronald Reagan (with some good advisors) and less like George W. Bush but it is really hard to tell at this stage.
- What was going on with the informal vote? Many seats well above 5%
- Finally, and on a note of considerable hope, Andrew Leigh has won in Fraser and with a better performance than his peers.